Will shoppers spend big this holiday season? Tech executives and analysts are oddly unsure headed into Black Friday – Fortune

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, Data Sheet readers. A quick note that we’ll be stuffing our face with turkey on Thursday and (hopefully) reveling in a World Cup victory over England on Friday, among other activities. As such, we’ll be off those two days and return on Monday.
In the true spirit of the holidays, let’s explore the odd forecast for the ultimate post-Thanksgiving tradition: buying copious amounts of consumer electronics.
As a tumultuous 2022 nears an end for tech companies, the outlook for Black Friday through Cyber Monday looks as cloudy as congealed gravy. Some companies and analysts are predicting an unpleasant downturn in sales. Some see prospects for a surprisingly solid season. Others are grasping for signs of any consistent trends.
The uncertainty reflects a whole host of factors converging at the peak period for electronics shopping. 
People are reluctant to spend too much in a high-inflation environment, yet they’re still getting paychecks with unemployment rates remaining low. Many tech companies have excess inventory, allowing them to offer steeper-than-normal discounts, but such promos will cut into margins. Consumers snapped up electronics in the early days of the pandemic, fueled by stay-at-home orders and stimulus orders, but the product renewal cycle never stops. 
“Surprisingly, early season tech sales have been slow—straying from the trend of the last few years,” Paul Gagnon, a consumer technology industry advisor for the global market information firm NPD, said this week. “Consumers may be waiting for more traditional deeper discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. Therefore, sales could grow against a softer Black Friday period the last couple of years.”
By now, a few universal truths about this shopping season have emerged.
Expectations for personal computer sales are undeniably bleak, largely because consumers bought all the PCs they needed over the past two years. HP issued a holiday-quarter earnings forecast Tuesday that fell short of Wall Street expectations, pairing the announcement with plans to lay off up to 10% of its workforce in anticipation of a prolonged slowdown. Meanwhile, Dell officials on Monday projected year-over-year fourth quarter sales would decline somewhere around 15%.
The outlook for video game sales isn’t quite as dire, but it’s underwhelming nonetheless. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the industry executives “issued sober outlooks for the current quarter,” as inflation-afflicted gamers pare back their purchases and spend less time on the couch.
On the plus side, consumers should benefit from the current macroeconomic conditions. Retailers and producers are looking to offload a build-up of inventory following a supply chain overcorrection, which should result in good bargains. Adobe predicts that discounts for consumers and electronics will exceed 25%, up from roughly 10% in 2021.
The broader holiday outlook, however, remains murky at best.
Compared to previous years, inflation-weary electronics shoppers generally held off on purchases in the pre-Thanksgiving stretch. As a result, a spending dam could give way starting on Black Friday—though there’s no guarantee of a big break. 
The National Retail Federation said consumers “continue to show resiliency” despite widespread economic challenges. The organization’s president and CEO, Matthew Shay, predicted “a solid five-day holiday shopping weekend,” citing the strong labor market and surplus savings.
Best Buy also buoyed hopes Tuesday of a strong finish to the year, particularly after a modest start to the quarter. CEO Corie Barry told analysts on an earnings call that “we expect there will be more customer shopping activity concentrated on Black Friday week, Cyber Monday, and the two weeks leading up to December 25th” when compared to prior years.
Other analysts and retailers, however, have been more bearish in their forecasts. 
Morgan Stanley survey data released Tuesday suggested shoppers plan to spend 25% less on consumer electronics and 34% less on luxury goods this holiday season when compared to 2021. Target CEO Brian Cornell said last week that early signs point to consumers remaining cautious with their money, opting to spend on essentials over discretionary items, such as electronics.
“While already soft, sales trends in our discretionary categories softened even more in the last few weeks of the quarter, a trend that’s persisted into the first few weeks of November,” Cornell said.
Headed into Black Friday, this much is clear: it’s a buyer’s market for those with the means and desire to spend. Happy hunting.
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Jacob Carpenter
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From the article:
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The taxman shareth. I wanted to head into the holiday on a cheerful note. I really did. But I couldn’t let the day pass without acknowledging this crackerjack investigation from The Markup, which exposed how high-profile online tax preparation companies are sharing mass amounts of users’ financial data with Facebook, ostensibly in an effort to improve their targeted advertising efforts. The report shows that H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer, among others, have employed a Facebook tool—one that’s widely used by the developer community but little-known to the public—to send customers’ personal info to the social media platform. The type of data shared varies by company, but in the most extreme cases, tax firms handed over users’ income and filing status. Several of the firms scrapped or shelved their use of the tool, known as Meta Pixel, following questions from The Markup.
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